But [the older son] was angry and would not go in. Therefore, his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.” And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
The team was like a brotherhood. They expected to be together for many seasons, and the championship was always the goal. When their highest scorer decided to chase a better offer that would give him a better chance at a title, he was seen as a traitor. Coach wished him luck, but his fellow players spurned him. After a few seasons, he realized that his new team was a bad fit. There was no comradery, no family, and not enough unity to bring home the trophy. When he went crawling back to his old team, coach was ecstatic and wanted to throw the biggest party. The team, however, was not in a celebratory mood, still feeling betrayed by his decision to walk away from them those years ago.
I used to think that the older brother was angry at his little brother for hurting their father. I saw him as standing in defense of the family honor and thought he had a right to be upset. His anger, however, was not for this reason. Even if it had been, his father clearly was nothing but joyous to have his son home and was not upset at all. The truth is that the older brother was angry for himself because he saw this celebration as the father slighting him. He saw himself as faithful while his brother was a traitor, so he thought he deserved the fanfare more than anyone. The father wanted to celebrate the younger son’s return, but the older son just wanted to punish him for leaving.
We will encounter brothers and sisters in Christ who stray from time to time. We will encounter some who spend much more time running from God than running toward him. When they return to the Lord and to us, we can roll our eyes and snicker in disbelief at their recommitment, or we can accept them with loving and open arms. If this parable means anything, it tells us that the Father is there waiting with a warm embrace. We will want to share in that celebration, not focusing on the time of unfaithfulness but on the restoration of the brethren. Father, make us as forgiving as You, happily welcoming back our brothers and sisters who have strayed.